Vengeance, Loyalists, Patriots, French, British, Indians, Frontier, Ohio Country, Massacres, Washington and Westward Expansion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 24th, 2012

Politics 101

The American Colonists kept moving into the Interior of the Country into Indian Lands

History has shown civil wars to be the bloodiest of wars.  For when people you know and grew up with kill your friends and family, well, things get a little ugly.  They escalate.  And there are a lot of opportunities for revenge when people in towns and villages join different sides in the war.   When friends and family fall in combat people retaliate by attacking the families left behind.  Those who didn’t take up arms.  The women and children.  They destroy their crops.  Burn their homes.  Force them to flee for their lives.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  They don’t force family members to flee.  They kill them.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  Instead of killing they rape, torture and mutilate their bodies.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out it tore families and towns apart.  People remaining loyal to the Crown became Loyalists.  Those rebelling became Patriots.  It was not uncommon to find Loyalist and Patriot in the same family.  And they hated each other.  That hatred grew as the people they knew and loved suffered the horrors of war.  Hardening them into merciless killers.  The people you were fighting were not soldiers.  They were fighting the lowest of traitors.  So there was no need for honor.   The people they were killing were no better than feral animals threatening their peaceful lives.  They deserved to die.  And worse.  This was civil war.  This was part of the American Revolutionary War.  And it got worse.

During the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years’ War) the French allied with the various Indian tribes against their long-time foe.  The British.  The Indians fought on the French side because it was the lesser of two evils.  The French were sticking to the rivers and had small colonies.  The British had larger colonies.  And they kept moving into the interior of the country.  Which the Indians wanted to stop.  And in trying they made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel.  The word used in official correspondence of the time used to describe them was savages.  For the unspeakable cruelties they did to white men, women and children.  They did not fight European style with bands and grand formations on the field of battle.  They made people suffer and live in fear.  The way they have always fought.

The British, the Loyalists and their Indian Allies advanced out of the Frontier into the River Valleys

Well, there was another war on the continent.  This one between the British and the American colonists.  Both sides tried to get the Indians to fight on their side.  Some were friendly with the Americans.  Some remained neutral.  But a lot fought with the British because they saw them as the lesser of two evils.  The American colonists were expanding further into the interior of the country.  In violation of their British treaties that were to keep the Americans out of the Ohio country.  Something the British agreed to without consulting their American colonists.  Who had every intention of moving further west.  So once again the Indians made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel. 

Not all the British were on board with this.  Edmund Burke denounced this policy.  As did William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.  Who said in the House of Lords, “What! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping knife?  To the cannibal savage, torturing, murdering roasting and eating…Such horrible notions shock every precept of religion, divine or natural, and every generous feeling of humanity.”  Even the Americans had their reservations about using the Indians.  George Washington wrote to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, “Gentlemen: You will perceive, by the inclosed Copy of a Resolve of Congress, that I am impowered to employ a body of four hundred Indians, if they can be procured upon proper terms.  Divesting them of the Savage customs exercised in their Wars against each other…”  Both sides were worried about using the unpredictable and uncontrollable Indians.  And for good reason.

The British had forts at Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula).  From these strongholds they controlled the Great Lakes and the frontier.  They, the Loyalists and their Indian allies advanced out of the frontier into the river valleys.  The Allegheny, the Susquehanna, the Mohawk, the Schoharie, the Monongahela.  Into the Ohio country.  And the frontier of New York.  Leaving a path of devastation in their wake.  Smoldering homes.  Ravished farms.  And a lot of dead.  The Loyalists and their Indian allies killing and torturing fleeing soldiers.  Prisoners.  Civilians.  And taking scalps.  There was a growing list of these massacres.  Wyoming.  Cherry Valley.  German Flats.  Blue Licks.  In the end these massacres did not help the British.  They just made the war more savage.  And turned anyone on the frontier who were neutral or leaning Loyalists into Patriots thirsting for vengeance.

George Washington was no Better than King George and Parliament in Restraining American Expansionist Ambition

The Americans couldn’t control their Indian allies any better than the British could.  They, too, were embarrassed by these savage acts that went counter to the rules of war and Christian teachings they were trying to adhere to.  But their embarrassments were short lived as the Americans had fewer Indian allies.  And, therefore, fewer atrocities.  For it was the Americans that were trying to expand into Indian hunting grounds.  And it was the British trying to restrain that expansion.  So more of them fought on the British side.  And thus the British had more of this blood on their hands.  Which only served to hurt their cause.

The opening and closing of the American Declaration of Independence are familiar to many people.  The stuff in the middle is not as well known.  Which is a laundry list of “repeated injuries and usurpations” committed by King George against the American people.  Including, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”  This British Indian policy was one of the items that pushed the Americans past reconciliation with the British.  And into open rebellion.

Fast forward to the Washington administration of the new United States of America.  Washington saw America’s relations with the Indians as a matter of foreign policy.  He spent more time trying to negotiate with them then he did with the Europeans.  For America’s future was in the west.  He wanted American expansion.  That would coexist with sovereign Indian lands.  Hoping in time that these lands would become future states within the new and growing union.  And the Indians would assimilate into the American way of farming and manufacturing.  Giving up their hunting and gathering ways that require such great tracts of land.  But, alas, that was not to be.  For he was no better than King George and Parliament in restraining American expansionist ambition.  The individual states ignored the new federal treaties with the Indians and negotiated their own treaties.  Or simply moved onto their land. 

Rather ironic, really.  Washington fought with the British against the French and Indians to secure American westward expansion.  He fought in the American Revolutionary War against the British to secure American westward expansion.  And the first major failure as president of the United States was over American westward expansion.  The subsequent treatment of the Indians would become what he feared.  A policy of confiscation that he worried “would stain the character of the nation.”  Which it has.  For the conflicts on the frontier were as violent and vicious as they ever were.  Forcing the Americans to send in troops to once again subdue these hostilities.  And to protect the Americans living on or near the frontier.  Which put the Americans and the Indians on the path Washington so wanted to avoid.  War.  Instead of conciliation.  And assimilation. 

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Libya is free from Kadafi, so what’s Next? Peace? Or more Blood?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2011

Living in Peace is one Advantage of an Oppressive Dictatorship 

Tripoli has fallen.  Kadafi‘s days are numbered.  Now it’s time for a glorious rebirth.  And peace.  If they can make peace.  And keep it (see Some fear post-revolution Libya may look like Iraq by Borzou Daragahi posted 8/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Although young men protect their own neighborhoods, major institutions such as banks, ministries and historic sites remain relatively unprotected. A number of banks and commercial towers have been thoroughly looted. Law enforcement is left in the hands of rebel fighters, some of whom had never been to their country’s capital.

Young men continue to pillage military sites abandoned by Kadafi’s men, carting away huge stores of weapons, just as Iraqis hauled off guns and explosives later used to make car bombs and launch attacks on Iraqi and U.S.-led forces.

Stores of weapons in the hands of angry young men?  Rarely does that end well.  And rarely does lawlessness just spontaneously turn into lawfulness.  Put the two together (angry young men with weapons and lawlessness) and what do you get?  Woe to anyone that is identified as a loyalist.

Reports also have begun to surface of reprisal killings of suspected loyalists, although few accounts could be fully verified given the chaos and lack of communications in Tripoli…

More obvious right now is the visceral violence of rebel forces hammering away at residential neighborhoods known to be strongholds of Kadafi supporters.

Rebel fighters use artillery and antiaircraft guns in such districts, which include Abu Salim, Hadba and Salahadin. At one point this week, rebels were firing assault rifles into residential apartment blocks in Abu Salim, where they suspected a sniper was holed up.

Civil wars tend to be the cruelest of wars.  And the bloodiest.  They split up neighborhoods.  And families.  With vengeance often being the battle cry.  For these aren’t soldiers on a distant battlefield who don’t know each other.  This is far more personal.  It’s typically someone you know killing someone you know.  And what makes it especially cruel is that before the war these were people you called friends.  Or family.  This kind of killing unleashes an indescribable hatred.  And searing anger.  Hence the vengeance.

Members of the district council insisted that the men had taken up arms against the revolution and were being held pending trial. But they also said some of those arrested included people pulled out of their cars at checkpoints because they looked “suspicious,” often code for dark-skinned Libyans and others of sub-Saharan African descent…

Said one Tripoli taxi driver, “I have a fear that one day we’ll be like Iraqis, wishing for the days of Moammar Kadafi.”

As bad as Saddam Hussein was, at least he kept the peace.  That’s the advantage of an oppressive dictatorship.  People live in fear of the state.  Not each other.  And if you behave properly, the state might just leave you alone.  As long as you’re not an intellectual.  Can read.  Or wear glasses.  If you’re not a threat to state power, or a perceived threat, life can be good.  All you have to do is to say nothing.  Avoid eye contact.  And never, ever complain.  For if you thought things were bad, just wait until after you complain.

Typically in Civil Wars, the Winning Side often Unleashed a Bloody Purge on the Losing Side 

Many people may not know this but the American Revolutionary War was part civil war.  Those loyal to the Crown fought for the Crown.  Against the Patriots.  And the bloodiest fighting during the Revolution was between Loyalist and Patriot.  Especially in the South.  Where some unspeakable horrors took place.

Now typically in civil wars, the winning side often unleashed a bloody purge on the losing side.  But not in America.  At the end of the war there were no reprisals.  No hangings.  No persecutions.  At least, not by those in power.  Most of the Loyalists just left.  They went to Canada.  Or back to the UK.  General Washington resigned from the army.  And the elected civilian authority made the peace.  Quite shocking.  For few generals ever voluntarily give up near absolute power.  And returned to their farm.  He was the American Cincinnatus

About a decade later, the French Revolution erupted.  A more classical civil war.  Far more bloody.  With plenty of reprisals.  And guillotining.  The streets of Paris ran with blood.  The Reign of Terror purged political enemies.  Than the people who unleashed the Terror fell victims to it themselves.  The fighting unleashed Napoleon Bonaparte onto Europe.  And the Middle East.  Made him a great general.  Even impressed a composer by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven.  A fan of republican government.  Even dedicated his Third Symphony to him.  And then Bonaparte made himself emperor.  So the revolution to overthrow a king ultimately ended up with an emperor.  Infuriating Beethoven so that he slashed the dedication page from his symphony.

Two revolutions that were part civil war.  One atypical.  The American.  And one more typical.  The French.

Winning the War was one Thing.  Winning the Peace was Another. 

At the time these were some pretty nasty wars.  But they pale when compared to the American Civil War.  Some 620,000 died.  That’s a huge number.  About 2% of the population then.  To get an idea about how devastating 2% of the population is consider this.  With today’s population that would equal some 6 million dead.

Winning the war was one thing.  Winning the peace was another.  The war was horrific.  And a lot of Northerners wanted a hard peace.  To make the South pay.  But Abraham Lincoln wanted an easy peace.  Near the end, shortly before Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Lincoln met with General Ulysses S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter.  He discussed the easy peace he wanted.  He said he did not want any retribution.  Any trials.  Any hangings.  If the defeated Confederates would sign paroles promising to never pick up arms again against the United States, they could simply go home.  He wanted to bring the South back into the Union.  As quickly and as painlessly as possible.  Forgive and forget.  Echoing his sentiments in his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all

The South was beaten.  Lee was surrounded.  The question was what would Lee do?  Surrender?  Or disband and head into the hills.  Carry out guerilla war?  This was weighing on everyone’s mind.  It terrified Lincoln.  Grant and Sherman feared it, too.  Even Lee.  When Grant met Lee at Appomattox to discuss surrender, Grant offered very generous terms.  In keeping with Lincoln’s wish for an easy peace.  It had a very favorable affect on Lee.  And his men.  Lee surrendered.  And once his war was over he dedicated his postwar life to making peace.

A similar surrender was negotiated between Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston.  Despite the assassination of Lincoln.  Which happened after Lee’s surrender.  Sherman waged hard war throughout the South.  But he did not hate the South.  War was war.  And once the war was over, he followed Lincoln’s directive for an easy peace without hesitation.  Eager to ‘let the South up easy’.  And bring them back into the Union.

Lincoln’s assassination infuriated the North.  They wanted vengeance.  They wanted retribution.  And they wanted to hang Lee.  But Grant stepped in.  Said he made the deal with Lee.  And the deal would be honored.  Or he’d resign.  President Andrew Johnson relented.  And Grant wrote Lee to assure him there would be no trial.  His terms would be honored.  And Lee reciprocated by dedicating his remaining life doing what he could to bring the South peacefully back into the Union.

Let us Judge not, that we be not Judged

The Civil War ended in 1865.  It easily could have gone on.  But thanks to Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee and Johnston, the war ended.  And the peace began.  The Southern people looked to Lee even in defeat.  For he was like George Washington to them.  Loved.  And respected.  Washington’s and Lee’s words and deeds carried great weight in their postwar years.  And made peace possible.

But Lee surrendered to Lincoln as much as he did to Grant.  And it was Lincoln that made the difference in this civil war.  Made it different from other civil wars.  For he could see beyond the conflict.  To a higher plane.  As he said in his second inaugural address.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

This is what you need for reconciliation.  Do they have that in Libya?  Let’s hope so.  But history has shown this to rarely be the case.  You need great people.  A Washington.  A Lincoln.  A Grant.  A Sherman.  A Lee.  A Johnston.  Is this person in Libya?  Or is Libya to descend into terror?  Time will tell.

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